BYU coach Mark Pope believes there’s something magical about the way seniors play in March.

He’s seen that happen many times during his playing and coaching career. 

And as his fifth-seeded team gets set for the West Coast Conference tournament Friday, Pope is looking forward to seeing what senior guard Rudi Williams can do. 

Cougars on the air

WCC Tournament

No. 5 BYU (17-14)
vs. No. 9 San Diego (11-19)
or No. 8 Portland (13-18) 
Friday, 7 p.m. MST
Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

On Senior Night last weekend, Williams started his first game since early December. He scored a team-high 21 points. Even more impressive, Williams had seven assists and only one turnover. Plus, he went to the free throw line 16 times and made 15 of them. 

“Rudi’s been playing very well,” Pope said. “Those numbers — 1 and 7 and 16 — are ridiculously impressive in terms of a seven-assist game with only one turnover where a team is so aggressive they’re putting you on the free throw line 16 times.”

Williams joined the Cougars last summer after transferring from Coastal Carolina. It took him a while to adjust, evidenced by his struggles with turning the ball over early in the season. 

But now, in March, Williams is hitting his stride.

“His confidence is growing. We’ve thrust him into a brand new space, a brand new way to play, a brand new position and asking him to do different things,” Pope said. “He’s gaining confidence in some of those concepts that he really can let loose and be super aggressive and just finish the play solidly.

“He’s certainly got a huge leadership role. Guys are relying on him and counting on him, as well as (senior Gideon George). Seniors are magic. We believe that. We’ve always said that here. I’m really hopeful that those guys have some juice. I think they will.”

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Pope appreciates the progress Williams has made throughout the season. He accepted his role and he’s recorded big games off the bench and as a starter.

“The best thing is, I think he’s going to help us win. He’s found ways to help us win all season long. I feel like he’s in a place now that it’s really reproducible,” he said. “That’s the trick. There’s a lot of players that can have a game but to be reproducible, and be super functional and super efficient on a regular basis, reproducing it every single night is hard.

“You have to master some skills that you might not think are that important, but they’re wildly important. He’s made incredible progress in that respect. You wish he had another year, because he’s come so far. If he was starting the season where he is now … it would be super fun. Hopefully, we’re starting in the postseason. That’s what we’ve got. We’ll take it.”

Will Pope keep Williams in the starting lineup in the postseason?

“I think so. We’ll see,” he said. “We’re kind of working that out. I would like to keep him there.”